Oregon bill will give police more leeway for writing distracted driving tickets

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 7/6/2017

A bill in Oregon awaiting Gov. Kate Brown’s signature will redefine “distracted driving,” allowing law enforcement to broaden their scope when it comes to writing tickets for cellphone use in the car.

On Friday, June 30, the Oregon House passed with a 47-6 vote Senate-amended House Bill 2597, which expands current laws dealing with mobile devices and distracted driving. Barring a veto from the governor, the bill is likely to become law.

Currently, a “mobile communication device” is any text messaging device or a wireless, two-way communication device designed to receive and transmit voice or text communication. If signed into law, HB2597 will redefine a “mobile electronic device” as an electronic device that is not permanently installed in a motor vehicle and “includes but is not limited to a device capable of text messaging, voice communication, entertainment, navigation, accessing the Internet or producing electronic mail.”

“Driving” will also be redefined as “operating a motor vehicle on a highway or premises open to the public, and while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device or other momentary delays.” The only exceptions will be vehicles that are safely stationary and pulled over on the side of the road, in a designated parking space or required to park on the roadway for utility maintenance work.

HB2597 will make it illegal for anyone to drive and use a mobile electronic device, which includes simple tasks such as changing a song on a music app or entering parameters on a navigation app. As defined above, this includes while stopped at a red light.

However, the law will not apply to commercial motor vehicle drivers as long as the mobile device is being used within the scope of the person’s employment. This includes use of a CB radio while transporting forest products or assisting in logging operations.

Violations will also increase from a Class C traffic violation ($160) to a Class B violation ($260) for first offenders. Violations that result in a crash will be bumped up to a Class A violation, a presumptive fine of $435. Penalties increase for additional violations within a 10-year period.

To read the full bill, click here.

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